The Running Mates program is designed to prepare middle school students to run in a local 5k race. The program teaches participants about teamwork, commitment, and perseverance. Utilizing a training program that incorporates running workouts, strength training exercises, goal setting, nutrition information, and team-building activities, they develop a deeper understanding of community and diversity. Through field trips and local 5k races, Running Mates brings students from different schools together to break down racial and cultural stereotypes. Participants forge friendships that might not otherwise form due to the geographic and cultural barriers that exist between neighborhoods. The program meets three times a week after or before school, utilizing coaches to manage the program in a positive, active, and safe environment! 

Running Mates Students Starting the Teach For America 5k.jpg


Running Mates students set goals for themselves at the beginning of the season to achieve new levels of health and fitness. Students set both nutrition and fitness goals and continuously re-assess and evaluate these goals throughout the season. Additionally, students actively engage in practices and have the opportunity to help lead stretches and activities during practices to promote both leadership and team building skills.


Team Building

Students not only run during their practices, but they also participate in fun running games/activities and strength training exercises that challenge them to work together and support each other. Additionally, during their runs, Running Mates have the opportunity to meet students in different grade levels and classes. They often run in groups or pairs and help push each other throughout their run. Students who finish early often run extra laps to support and encourage their friends or wait at the finish line to cheer their teammates on as they finish.

Cross-Community Events

During each 8 week season, students participate in a field trip and a 5k race with students from other Running Mates schools across Chicago. This gives our Running Mates a chance to interact with students from different neighborhoods whom they might otherwise, never meet. The field trip is a chance to build new relationships and have fun. At the race, students re-connect with Running Mates from other schools and complete a 5k race together.

Running Mates Students Starting the Teach For America 5k.jpg

Race Day!

Running Mates students train 3 days/week for an 8 week season, three times a year. At the end of each 8 week season, Running Mates participate in a 5k race, the culminating event of the season. This is a chance for Running Mates to see their hard work pay off and to celebrate their success. The races help Running Mates measure success, reach new goals, and experience a fun and exciting race day.

Our Running Mates participants were put to the test in 2015 to see how their physical fitness levels compared to other student-athletes from around the country. 

The national evaluation results are outstanding! Please click the link below to learn more.


Go to the Coaches' Corner
for health & fitness tips 

For more practice ideas,
check out these grades 6-8 Fitness videos